The New York Giants are a sorry lot these days, at 7-8 once again officially a losing team. Amazingly, they may make the playoffs, but I'm sure even the team itself knows that's a one-game event for them this year.
The problems on the field are many: injuries and a sorry lack of execution at nearly all positions. The problems off the field are even greater - communication within the organization is apparently done, these days, through the New York Post.
Since it's now a public issue, let me offer some radical solutions to the Giants' problems.
First, make a plan. I'd say an achievable plan is "to dominate the NFL during the decade starting 2010". Why bring home just one championship? Let's make this worthwhile and bring home a few.
Second, learn it and love it: "rebuilding". This team has a LOT of that to do and should take decisive action with this as the goal. New York wants a team that can win championships and this Giants team is not it.
Third, flush all sources of negativity. This translates into a) firing Coughlin, who likes to say one thing and do another; and b) dealing pretty much every big name on the team for draft picks and prospects.
This brings us to the fourth item, depth. The injuries suffered by the Giants this year exposed that the second string is not able to capably support the first. Moreover, that makes the existing first-stringers' (and the coaches') jobs harder, they spend less time rotated out and resting and have more pressure on each to personally execute. Trading away Eli Manning, Jeremy Shockey, Michael Strahan, and Plaxico Buress should provide a wealth of talent across the board in return.
Fifth, establish an identity. If the New York Giants are going to be the champion team they should be, they will be a running team, not just say they are a running team. If you pass in every important situation and pass often on first and second down, you are not a running team, sorry. If you rush for half a quarter and abandon it after minimal success, you are not a running team. The goal of a running team should be to average 5 yards or better per rush, so that they can reliably make first downs with the rush by the 3rd. The advantage that is gained from being able to do this is enormous - the clock moves, bringing the win closer; the defense rests and refreshes its strength; and turnovers are minimized. To complement such an offense, a strong defensive line and reasonably competent secondary is necessary to prevent an opponent from doing the same.
Let's take a look at some recruiting goals specifically:
a) At QB: If you have only one QB option in this league, you're screwed. The success of backup and rookie QBs around the league this year (Romo, Young, Rivers, Garcia, and on and on down the list) is because the existing starters couldn't perform at a winning level. This year, Eli Manning couldn't perform at a winning level - he should have been pulled in the middle of the Bears game when the season was still salvageable. (To illustrate the depth of the problem, Eli has a good chance to break 20 INTs this year, with 18 so far and a game to go.) But since the Giants have had no other QB to try (apparently Lorenzen and Hasselbeck are listed on the depth chart as a formality alone), what should have been a strong team, even a championship contender, was largely sunk by the personal slump of Eli Manning. Manning or not, Eli is not what he was thought to be when grand concessions were made to draft him, and it's time to prepare to cut losses if necessary.
b) On the lines: Success at the line whether on offense or defense is the heart of football. When it comes December and January and the wind is blowing and there's snow on the field, the teams that win (playoff games and championships) do it through controlling the line of scrimmage. Therefore having strong, reliable, and deep offensive and defensive lines should be the #1 priority in recruiting. The OL has played decently this season, but they've been around a while and some fresh blood - at least 3 new talented young players to serve as backups/rotation players/learners from the veterans are needed. I would look forward to having a completely new offensive line within 4 years, young guys who could have a decade of playing football together to look forward to - imagine how fearsome the teams behind such a line would be! This is a key, key, goal, more important than who is the QB, as behind such a line most any QB could competently get the job done.
The DL got rocked by injuries - it's just bad luck that two Pro Bowl DEs were taken out for much of the season. For the future, getting rid of Strahan while he's still worth something on the market is the best thing to do, given that Kiwanuka played well in his trial under fire. The tackles could be playing better, throwing those positions open to competition and rotation would be helpful both as player incentive and for team stamina during games. A tired defensive line late in a game is a bad bad thing. Start with Umeniyora, Kiwanuka, and Cofield and bring in at least 5 solid guys to back them up. Kiwanuka will have to grow up fast, but I believe he can be depended on to do it, based on the way he has stepped up this season.
c) Offense - other backs - Brandon Jacobs is simply amazing, and what's better, he's young too. This is the guy who will be doing most of the running behind the offensive line we're going to build. Put him through the same regimen that taught Tiki Barber not to cough of the ball - Jacobs is pretty good about that already, but it never hurts to be sure. Jim Finn at FB is one of the few veterans worth keeping, and I would consider cross training him as a tight end, to be 3rd TE on 3 TE sets (an option Giants do not currently possess). It would also be worthwhile to seek a Reggie-Bush style tailback, to give the offense another way to confuse and disrupt an opposing defense.
d) Offense - wide receivers - Amani Toomer was never supposed to be a #1 receiver. He's a solid #2 receiver that was always good enough. Depending on him to be the #1 opened up the opportunity for what should have been a minimally damaging injury to become a critical fault. Trade Plaxico Burress to a team that doesn't mind if he doesn't care. Draft a receiver if any spots are open after linemen are taken care of (which they should be, considering all the draft picks we're getting for the "stars".) None of the other wide receivers are good enough to make the grade, trade them too for draft picks and start anew. Toomer should be used as #2 receiver and veteran teacher for the next few years, and if he develops coaching ability, to receivers coach.
e) Offense - tight ends - Trade Shockey. He ought to be worth a bundle on the market. Draft a good blocker and catcher. Shancoe could be worth keeping around.
f) Defense - linebackers - The Giants are actually doing pretty well at LB; Pierce is fierce and there's up and coming talent. Trade Emmons and bring in a couple of new young guys to refresh competition. Make LBs learn to punt and kick - if any of them end up having any talent at it, it would be like having an extra man on special-teams coverage if you can pull it off. One of them has to have a good leg for kickoffs at the very least.
g) Defense - secondary - Depth at safety is a real problem and should be addressed with draft picks. Backup corners are young and will probably look a lot better given experience, a real running game to give them rest, and a better pass rush. Sam Madison one of the few vets worth keeping.
h) (Offense) Kicking game - Kicker and punter are getting old, it might be a good idea to start the search for a new one for the next decade. Give all players on the team a shot at it and see if any have talent; there are only so many slots on the roster and being able to make the best use of every one is an advantage fitting of a championship team.
Speaking about coaching... Coughlin has to go, a blown opportunity of this magnitude demands accountability at his level. He should resign rather than be subjected to the humililation of being fired. Bring in a low-profile, soft-spoken coach with a demonstrated record of successfully running the ball and being creative in play-calling. After Coughlin, I'd say the rest of the coaches should go too as part of flushing negativity. (If there is a particular one or two that deserve to be held on then of course they should remain.)
So there you go, a plan for making the Giants a championship team.
Well, yes, I may be nobody, but at least I have a plan for it.
Do the Giants?